I am a science reporter who is working on a book about taxonomy and when the desire to order the word becomes madness, all told thru the real-life adventures(!) of a 19th century fish collector who battled lightning, hurricanes, and earthquakes, never believing for an instant that the World would overcome him.
What I wondered about this man is, what does behaving like this do to you? Is it heroism to believe you can conquer all earthy Chaos? Or is it delusional? The mark of someone deeply out of touch with his place in the world?
What I found is that, on one hand, he achieved incredible success. He discovered more fish than nearly anyone alive on earth at that time. He won peace prizes, had buildings named after him, even a mountain peak. This desire to control got him ahead. But at the same time, there is a lesser known side of this widely celebrated man. His passion for ordering world slipped over from fish into people. He became one of the country's most prominent eugenicists, helping to order the sterilization of thousands of people in California. He has even been posthumously accused of murder. I want to fly to California to explore his legacy, walk through his home, explore his archives, and interview those who can help fill in his tale.
Funded by San Francisco, CA (February 2017)